The Scientific Indian

MP expenses scandal in UK

One of the occasional political posts. You’re probably full of this news already, if you live in the UK. It on the TV for 24 hrs. Anyway, let me unload before my head explodes.

The motherload.

There’s an article in guardian that’s worth a read to understand how deeply fucked-up many MPs heads are. The political class loves public data – to protect the public, of course – but, oh no, MPs expenses are private. WTF.

A few days back Stephen Fry offered his opinion that everyone fudges their expenses: we should move on, there are bigger things at stake to get hung up on small fry (unintended pun warning). He’s right, of course. But, he is also quite out of depth with public anger and for once appeared like someone who didn’t ‘get it’. (I like him, btw, for his erudition, and for writing this book on poetry)

In Question Time,[UK only link] one lady said she felt very sad because many MPs who are doing good work are going to feel very demotivated and the stupid shitparty called BNP may gain from all this. (I think, the widespread exposure to BNP will have precisely the opposite effect.)


  1. #1 Dunc
    May 15, 2009

    It may be true that everyone fudges their expenses, but there’s a big difference between adding the tip you left at lunch to your expense claim, and claiming £2,000 for cleaning your moat.

  2. #2 phisrow
    May 15, 2009

    @dunc: Once the little people find out about what, and how much, they’ve been paying for, that particular MP is going to be very glad that he has a moat in good working order…

  3. #3 Sam C
    May 15, 2009

    One of the losers in this is Heather Brooke, a journalist who spent five years going through proper channels and courts trying to unblock the path to this information, while the House of Commons tried to block her search, including making new legislation specifically to keep everything under wraps. Poor Heather in the end was usurped by the Daily Telegraph getting the information the old-fashioned way: illicitly!

    Heather wrote some years ago about how one of her first student reporter assignments in the USA was to look for dirt in public representatives’ receipts, and how surprised she was to find all the receipts from all the people wholly above board. Not even an out-of-place naughty film at a motel, nothing, zero, rien, nada. She says that was what really told her how effective transparency can be in making people think before they claim.

    So great credit to the US’s very genuine freedom of information on these things. In the UK, we are seeing what happens when the curtains are closed and nobody can see whose fingers are in the till.

    And three cheers to Heather for tugging at those curtains so gamely.

    I have a feeling that this period is going to go down in history books, as a seismic shift in the rotten form of governance of the UK. Many, many MPs are going to lose their jobs – no need for sympathy, they have huge payoffs and huge pensions coming to them; there are no hard landings for these people. We electors wish to be very generous to our representatives at Westminster – they have decided that on our behalf!

    However, I don’t share your optimism about the BNP (for non-UKers: they’re a bunch of populist racists) withering in the bright sunlight. This time they’ll probably do well; it’s going to be a bit of struggle getting rid of those shitbags over the following few years.

    Like many people, I will probably be voting for a non-Westminster party at the European elections in 3 weeks’ time. Green for me I think, slightly bonkers but at least they’re in politics to do something other than line their pockets.

    I agree with Stephen Fry that starting wars is much more reprehensible than cheating the public purse, but I think it’s right to demand a reasonable (but sub-saintly) level of integrity from MPs in all their public roles. If an MP fiddles his allowances/expenses, how can you trust his/her integrity on starting wars?

    One of the most amusing expenses claims was about £2000 from one rich-as-shit MP for cleaning the moat around his huge country house. Admit your house has a moat around it, and there’s no way you’ll get much sympathy from ordinary punters. Working folk have to clean out their moats ourselves!

    Two MPs married to each other, with two houses, each a second home for one, so they had no first home (no allowance for that) but two second homes (up to £23,000ish available for each) – now how’s that honest?

    The most unimpressive aspect of all of this has been the floundering by MPs who really took a long time to “get it”. That increased disgust from the public – that MPs tried to laugh off claiming thousands of pounds as minor slips, expecting the public to **** off and forget about it. The contempt for the electorate showed how out of touch they are and really wound people up.

    There’s more to run on this. I hope the mood of anger stays up so we get some sort of clean-up of Westminster and move towards a vaguely democratic form of government instead of this self-serving hypocrisy.

  4. #4 NoAstronomer
    May 15, 2009

    In the interest of truthiness it should probably be pointed out that the £2,000 moat-clearing was not actually claimed as an reimbursable expense, just listed as an outlay for the property.

    I like Stephen but he’s out of touch on this and IMHO the same “well everyone’s doing it” attitude is to blame for the war as well as the expenses debacle.

    What drives me nuts is how these people (count Nancy Pelosi in here) can’t see how the public is begging for some of their elected officials to show some backbone about all this crap.

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